Why I Love Features

Sunday Content #29: March 13, 2016

Brittany Howard is so fucking cool.

Yesterday I tweeted that this week’s essay was going to be about the Spice Girls. I did in fact start writing an essay about the Spice Girls, but then it became an essay about the nineties, and how I wish Hillary Clinton could just condemn racismwhite racism—and then I got mad and then I got sad and watched Twitter scream by for awhile, the phrase “low-key advocate” swimming through my head. Then I baked banana bread and went and sat outside.

My favorite kind of day is a gray sky one like this, one that sits on your head like a cap. I drank grapefruit juice and coffee and read feature stories, ones that were sitting in my Pocket queue and I’d been neglecting.

For many years until recently, it was my job to curate and edit such pieces and therefore I became accustomed to reading them all the time. It’s been some months since that was the case.

As I read, I remembered how a good feature story is sort of like this weather. It wraps around you. It blocks out the drone of the traffic below, if only for a while. (The banana bread came out great; I’ve written down the recipe for you below. I don’t remember where I first learned it.)

It seems there’s always an asinine debate going on—like a gassy smell lingering in a hallway—about whether “longform” is inherently bad. By which I guess people mean whether long stories published on the internet are inherently bad. That SB Nation bullshit a few weeks back was the most recent event that’s caused this debate to flare up.

If this actually needs saying: what distinguishes longform stories from any others isn’t length, per se. It’s that people — writers, editors, designers, photographers, investigators, lawyers, fixers, researchers, copyeditors, etc. — have put actual work into them. And of course some stories are flops or spectacular failures; that’s how literally everything works!

The only other thing I want to say on this topic is that I suspect that anyone who dismisses all “longform” as being bad hasn’t bothered to actually read much of what is actually being published.

Here’s some ~longform~ I’d recommend:

Speaking of the tens of thousands of Americans who died of AIDS while the Reagan White House literally laughed: here’s a feature BuzzFeed legal editor Chris Geidner published last year about Nancy Reagan denying Hollywood legend Rock Hudson assistance when, near death, he pleaded for her help.

Low fucking key.

And the San Francisco Chronicle has just published an impressive look into the lives of those who, inexplicably, have survived that plague, entitled “Last Men Standing”:

It has a lot of incredible photos.

I really recommend you read this singular story about assisted suicide, published in Toronto Life. Written by right-to-die advocate John Hofsess, it both confessed to the “crimes” he committed in assisting eight others to die, and the fact that, by the time the story published, he had also killed himself. (If you’d like to read more on this topic, I’d recommend this piece from Harper’s earlier this year [paywalled], and this, which we published on BuzzFeed a few years ago, and focuses more on the intersection between that issue and mental health.)

I highly recommend this story, by Kathryn Joyce and published in Pacific Standard, about an Australian soldier with PTSD and the puzzling manner and location in which he chose to take his own life:

From The New Yorker, here’s must-read piece by Jelani Cobb on the future of the Black Lives Matter movement, in which he speaks with and about several prominent of the figures associated with it, including Alicia Garza.

It includes this stunning portrait of her:

You should also read the new Sarah Stillman feature, which is about children who are placed, sometimes forever, on the sex offender registry:

At The New Republic, Elle Reeve’s “The Secret Life of Tumblr Teens.”

At Slate, Jamelle Bouie on how Trump happened:

In New York, Robert Moor on a YouTube’s pimple popping dermatologist star, and Rebecca Traister on the redemption of Marcia Clark.

(I’m really enjoying her book. And you really should watch The People v. O.J. Simpson.)

Finally, this Times Magazine feature written by all kindsa rad folks about the future of music (that has music in it!).

Two podcast recommendations: unsurprisingly, the Another Round interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda was perfect — and not only because it opened with him and Tracy singing “The Story of Tonight” together, or because, when asked about his influences, he first talked a lot about Rent. (Here’s an essay I wrote a while back about my own unapologetic love of that show.)

I also want to recommend this Fresh Air interview with Adam Cohen about his new book Imbeciles, which focuses on the Supreme Court decision Buck v. Bell — still the law of the land — that okayed the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of Americans because … eugenics!

Again, that’s still the law of the land.

I thought this was lovely.


This week I finally saw this video:

And I listened to this song one billion times:

And I tried to do #adult things like figuring out what r taxes, and to *straightens bowtie* protecting my digital security. If like me you’re shitty at remembering passwords, I want to recommend spending money on 1Password.

If you’re someone who buys seafood, try to buy seafood that isn’t fucking horrible.

Play with your news.





Banana Bread: Oven to 350F. Combine: three ripe bananas mashed; two eggs whisked; 3/4 c. sugar. Combine: 2 c. flour; 1 tsp apiece of salt and baking soda. Grease bread pan. Mix wet and dry ingredients, and walnuts (if walnuts are your style). Bake for 1 hour. Let cool on a rack for a few. Eat the banana bread. Pretend like the world is okay.

p.p.p.s. Speaking of bread, you should watch this documentary about the creation and distribution of bread.

Author of A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE (Scribner, 18) | Host of podcast MAD CHAT (www.madchatshow.com) | www.hellosandyallen.com | they/them

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